First off, Merry Christmas Eve! Second off, don’t worry – I do not carry cocaine in my purse! 😉 I’ve spent the last two days walking down a memory lane caked in a sugary white substance that is poisoning unsuspecting, health-conscious consumers every day.
You know you’re adamant about your nutritional beliefs when you have healthy alternatives on-hand at all times. Yesterday, for example, I walked into a smoothie bar after my workout and asked for a protein shake sweetened without turbinado (raw sugar).
“You’d like it with Splenda instead?” asked the barista.
“Do you have… (drum roll, please)…Stevia?” I replied.
The barista crouched to examine the shelves, but alas, he emerged empty-handed.
“No problem,” I said. I promptly produced a single white packet of Stevia from my purse.
You should have seen the barista’s expression; it was half-impressed, half-mystified by the crazy health-nut who thought Splenda, the wonder-sweetener, was inadequate.
I answered his puzzled expression with, “I have issues with Splenda.” Curious to know more, I readily provided him my litany of grievances (I’m sure he was so glad he asked!).
Anyway, the story ends happily. The Splenda-only predicament was solved by a bit of resourcefulness, as I refuse, as much as possible, to subject my body to the wrath of Splenda. I carry a tiny Ziploc® bag of Stevia packets for coffee dates, hotel cereal and oatmeal, and yes, protein smoothies on-the-go.
Now for the science behind my madness 😉 …
The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as “sweet leaf” or simply, “Stevia,” has been used for centuries by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay for medicinal and flavoring purposes. The substance occurs naturally as a shrub in tropical and subtropical regions and is completely natural. Its leaves have a refreshing (okay, sometimes “bitter” is a more accurate adjective, depending on the variety and/or your taste buds) taste that can be up to three-hundred times sweeter than sugar.
Unlike its artificial counterparts, Stevia has been shown to contain several health benefits:
- Aids in weight loss because it contains no calories
- Doesn’t adversely affect blood glucose levels and may be freely taken by diabetics
- Tends to lower elevated blood pressure while not affecting people with normal blood pressure
- Inhibits the growth and reproduction of oral bacteria and other infectious organisms
- Improves digestion and soothes upset stomachs
The FDA’s position on Stevia is ambiguous because they claim there isn’t enough proof to draw a solid conclusion on its safety despite dozens of studies that have found the substance to be totally non-toxic. Citing a preliminary study in 1991, the FDA issued an alert which effectively prohibited Stevia from being imported into this country. Ironically, this was also the year in which a follow-up study found flaws in the preceding one and questioned its methods and results. The FDA revised its alert in 1995 and allowed Stevia and Stevia extracts to be imported not as a sweetener, but as a supplement. The revision suspiciously sounds like an FDA-mediated compromise between artificial sweetener and sugar lobbyists and the Natural Food Industry. Whatever the reason for Stevia’s labeling limitations, I’m simply glad it’s allowed to be sold.
Well, time for me to start baking my cinnamon cake! By the way, I’ll be going old school – real cane and brown sugar all the way! 🙂
Merry Christmas to all!
Stay fit, stay faithful ~<3 Di